The Netherlands has been working with Ghanaian horticultural farmers and entrepreneurs for many years and sees the sector as one of the most prominent drivers for economic growth in Ghana. There are three main reasons to further strengthen the partnership in horticulture: economic growth, improved diets, and employment possibilities.
The agricultural sector is important for the Ghanaian economy. Almost 20% of the GDP is linked to agriculture (GSS, 2022) and accounts for over 30% of export earnings (FAO, 2023). Both for the domestic and export markets, the horticultural value chain plays a significant role in the economy, and the sector is growing on average by 10%. Compared to the average of 3.3% of the broader agricultural sector, the market opportunities in vegetable and fruit production are significant.
Currently, Ghana is mainly producing tomato, pepper, onions, and okra, but also many of these products are being imported from surrounding countries, mainly originating from Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon, and Togo. Ghana only produces 5 percent of the onions it consumes locally, and there are indications that the Kumasi and Accra markets alone already import 120 million dollars worth of fresh and dry onions (RVO, 2021). In total, Ghana is importing 3.4 billion dollars in mainly processed agrifoods. The shifting security situation in the Sahel is occasionally putting pressure on some of those imports, as we have seen with haltering trade flows of Nigerien onions and Burkinabé tomatoes.
This poses a challenge for Ghana as the average intake of fresh vegetables by Ghanaians is already relatively small compared to its regional neighbors.
The Global Nutrition Report indicated that the consumption of vegetables in Ghana is only 46% of the recommended amount for healthy living. On average, a person should consume a minimum of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day (FAO/WHO). In Ghana, not even the intake of 200 grams is currently being met. This is partially caused by the relatively high prices of vegetables and fruits. The Ghana Living Standards Survey indicated that 13% of total food expenditure is going to vegetables, mainly tomatoes (36%), onions (19%) and chilies (10%). One important way to tackle high food prices is to start producing more and more efficiently. That is why the Netherlands is joining forces with initiatives all over Ghana that maximize horticultural production as well as reduce the cost of production.
Key areas of attention are the development of sustainable crop value chains, improving access to markets and access to finance, the training of farmers on good agricultural practices and entrepreneurial skills, and finally, access to new and improved fruit and vegetable varieties. More production leads to growth of the sector, leading to a higher demand for agricultural services and growth of the value chain.
Currently, the agricultural sector is the biggest employer in Ghana. Roughly 36% of the 31 million Ghanaians are working in the sector (GSS 2019), amounting to 11 million people in total. Many of them are, however, considered to be active on a very small scale. Currently, 77% of the 11 million are considered to be subsistence farmers (FAO). The governments of Ghana and the Netherlands share the perspective that this should be different.
It is widely acknowledged that small and medium enterprises form the backbone of the economy. They lead to economic growth, industrialization, and the creation of jobs. That is why the Netherlands is partnering with a large group of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, on supporting the Ghanaian food system, growing it into an environment where horticultural farmers and entrepreneurs can thrive.
That is why the Netherlands is working together with the Kwadaso Agricultural College, the Technical University of Delft, and Dutch company Holland Greentech on improving horticultural curricula, introducing courses focused on farming as a business. East West Seed Knowledge Transfer is currently training 12.000 farmers in the Ashanti and Western region on the use of good agricultural practices and the use of quality hybrid seeds. Several initiatives in the Netherlands are looking at providing up-to-date weather data for open-field farmers to increase productivity and introduce digital solutions in the horticultural value chain.
The jobs created will lead to more income, more companies, more jobs, better quality and nutritious food, enabled through win-win partnerships. An example of that partnership can be seen at the opening of the Fruit and Vegetable Fair, organized for the seventh time, this time by the recently founded Horticultural Business Platform (HBP). This new organization is a platform for farmers, cooperatives, governments, entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes, Ghanaian and Dutch private sector, and development partners to come together. The platform will build bridges, facilitate partnerships, and provide first-hand information on the needs of the sector. Stakeholders interested in the HBP can send an email to [email protected] for more information.
As Ghana is moving beyond aid, the Netherlands is investing in deepening the partnership on trade and investment between the countries. The Netherlands is the second agricultural exporter in the world, in absolute terms, exporting 105 billion euros, which is around 1.3 trillion cedi every year. Of this amount, 160 billion cedis is exported in fruits and vegetables. We have agricultural consumer products to offer, but also planting materials, innovative technologies, experience, expertise, and so much more that can help Ghana make the required leap forward in the horticulture sector. From this perspective of partnership, the future of horticulture in Ghana looks bright.